While I am a fan of martial arts movies, my knowledge of them is pretty pedestrian. I know the high points, but there have been a lot of important works that I’ve missed. In at least one case, that has now been remedied.
Last night I watched Iron Monkey on Netflix Canada. The movie stars Donnie Yen and Rongguang Yu (yes, I know the family name should be first, but if I’m not writing ‘Yen Donnie,’ it doesn’t make sense to write Yu Rongguang). I’ve seen a few Donnie Yen pics, and those of you who don’t watch a lot of Asian cinema may know him from Blade II. For the whole time, I was trying to remember from where I knew Rongguang Yu, and only after reading up on the movie in Wikipedia, did I find out he was the Big Bad in the Korean actioner Musa: the Warrior.
So, two solid leads. What about the story? Iron Monkey is about a Robin Hood figure in 19th century China, dealing with a corrupt system by opposing it and protecting the common folk. Rather than Donnie Yen playing the hero, he plays a martial arts teacher and father, who is invested in the status quo and initially opposes the Iron Monkey. Of course, he learns of the corruption of the Imperial government, and joins with the Iron Monkey.
The story doesn’t have a lot of twists or turns, but if you want a straight-ahead actioner with some fantastic fight choreography (this is a directorial turn for Wooping Yuen, who did the fight choreography for the Matrix) this movie will more than fit the bill. It’s a great example of fun wuxia that doesn’t take itself too seriously.
There is nothing wrong with this movie, but there also isn’t anything special about it. It breaks no new ground and says nothing important that hasn’t been said better elsewhere. There’s nothing wrong with that, it’s just those generally separate the good movies from the great.
I give this one 4 angry monkeys out of 5.
You can learn more about Iron Monkey here.